Left Hand Smoke's 1999 debut announced the arrival of one of the best unsigned bands in the country. Powered by the punchy lead guitar work of Will Mish and the soul-styled shouting and keyboard playing of his older brother Ben, the band's organic grooves immediately struck a chord with Seattleites craving a return to clean, well-played rock & roll that flew in the face of local indie rock hipsters. Formed in late 1997 while Ben Mish and Ronan O'Mahoney (guitar) were attending the University of Washington, by 2000, Left Hand Smoke began to dominate the Seattle scene, breaking house records at local clubs and generating exuberant word-of-mouth buzz as the next band poised to break out of the Pacific Northwest. A self-produced debut, Left Hand Smoke, began to receive widespread regional airplay after one of its songs, the Allman Brothers-inspired rocker "Blues Eyes Shinin'," was featured on the hit TV show ER. Soon after, the band had their second local hit with "Step Outside," a ballad whose subtle groove proved even more successful. In April 1999, original bassist Chris Jensen left the group. The band continued to tour, hiring musicians by the job throughout 1999, before eventually recruiting the permanent rhythm section of bassist Andrew Scaglione and drummer Andrew Cloutier. Only a few steps from stardom, the band's second album, So Many Faces, appeared in February 2001 to strong reviews.
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